As usually is the case, this week will be a little different than past and future installments. Basically, what I’ll do is provide one key number for each of Draft Express’ top fifteen college prospects and explain why it’s important in my estimation. Short(ish) and sweet. Drive through safely.
Some of the numbers will be of the positive variety, others negative, and a few will fall somewhere in the middle. It’s important to note that the number I select for each prospect doesn’t necessarily reflect my overall evaluation of them. Mostly, I just tried to pick something that stands out.
Here they are, in the order DX currently has the prospects listed. Many of the numbers listed below are courtesy of the great KenPom, which I highly recommend subscribing to if you pay any sort of detailed attention to college hoops.
1. Andrew Wiggins, 34 percent three-point shooting. This number feels like it could swing in either direction. When Wiggins is on, he shoots the ball effortlessly way past the NBA three-point line. When he’s not, there are airballs and other ugly misses that give you some pause. If Wiggins noticeably improves from behind the arc in conference play and is hovering around the 40 percent mark at the end of the year, man, it would be even harder to pass on him. If he stays around the same number or even regresses a little bit, he opens the door that much more.
2. Julius Randle, 0.2 steal percentage. Randle has only one steal all year, which isn’t great. Many smart statistical people feel steal rate is a metric that accurately predicts how a player’s overall quickness will translate to the NBA level. It’s part of the reason that many analysts felt Nerlens Noel, who averaged over two steals per game in college, was a (resisting pun…) great get for the Sixers at the sixth pick.
3. Jabari Parker, 63.2 true shooting percentage. Considering the heavy amount of responsibility Parker carries on a nightly basis, that’s just flat-out getting it done. He’s been an A-plus so far offensively.
4. Joel Embiid, 23.1 defensive rebounding percentage. Embiid’s advanced numbers are excellent across the board. He scores efficiently, blocks shots, the team plays well offensively with him on the floor, etc. There’s a lot to like about the Cameroon native (Jason King’s story about his background is terrific), and the fact that rebounding usually translates from the college to professional ranks is certainly part of the equation. When the "raw" freshman isn’t doing an amazing Dream Shake, he’s cleaning the glass.
6. Marcus Smart, 23.6 assist rate/19.1 turnover rate. Dare I say it, is this another example of the swing skill? Maybe not, as Smart’s numbers have all generally improved across the board, but I’m still not sold that he’ll be able to efficiently run an NBA offense. Part of this is context: Oklahoma State has a few different playmakers, and Smart plays off the ball sometimes. Still, along with three-point shooting, this is what’s going to hold Smart’s draft position back.
7. Aaron Gordon, 50.6 true shooting percentage. On a dominant team and still adjusting to the college game, Gordon’s advanced numbers simply aren’t very good. Out of Arizona’s top seven rotation players, the freshman has the lowest offensive rating by far. We’ll see if he can right the ship as the season moves along.
8. Noah Vonleh, 27.8 defensive rebounding percentage. On the surface, Vonleh possesses very solid advanced numbers early in his freshman campaign. Like Embiid, the rebounding should translate.
9. Willie Cauley-Stein, 14.7 block percentage. Sam Hinkie said it at Noel’s introductory press conference: Rim protection is at a premium. More than anyone projected to go in the lottery, Cauley-Stein provides it. It’s still early, but he’s actually been a slightly bigger deterrent than Noel was last season.
10. Gary Harris, 48 percent effective field goal percentage. As Harris’ usage has gone up, his efficiency numbers have dropped. It’s still early, and he’s missed three games with an ankle injury, but Michigan State needs Harris to be better when he returns to the lineup. For the sake of his draft stock, Harris needs himself to be better when he returns as well.
11. Montrezl Harrell, 127.7 offensive rating. Even though it’s been mostly against poor competition, Harrell’s numbers are up across the board, unlike Harris. Nothing else to see here.
12. Doug McDermott, 64.3 true shooting percentage. Similar to Parker, McDermott is a monster offensive player in college. How much he can make up for his athletic deficiencies on the other end of the floor will determine how far he goes as a pro.
13. Rodney Hood, 106.3 defensive rating. Hood’s offensive numbers are as good or better than pretty much anyone else’s on this list. Still, he’s a major part of the reason for Duke’s defensive struggles.
14. James Young, 34 percent three-point shooting. Part of Young’s appeal heading into the season was that he provides both length and marksmanship. Up to this point, his long distance shooting has been inconsistent.
15. Jahii Carson, 31.7 percent assist rate. We’ll end this exercise by highlighting a successful playmaker.